It’s been years since I’ve done a “best reading” list. I hesitate because my reading habits are admittedly odd. Most people wouldn’t enjoy following my example. What I read isn’t nearly focused enough to win the approval of the scholars. It’s not all deep enough to appeal to intellectuals. It’s not all fun enough to entertain the immature. My problem is that the only books I don’t like to read are written by people who are just bloviating—and I’ll read some of them just because they can be so funny.
Still, certain works remain in memory. Some are conspicuously bad, while others are exceptionally good. Either of those could constitute an interesting and useful list, but neither is what I plan to write about here. Instead, I’m going to list the books that I’ve particularly enjoyed reading over the past year. Think of the following, not as a list of books that you must read, but as a list of books that you might like to read if only you knew about them.
Morris, Benny. 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. Yale University Press, 2008.
This book was recommended to me by a friend who is strongly pro-Palestinian. He told me that if I didn’t enjoy it, he’d buy the book from me. I still own it, and for good reason. Morris is not Palestinian. He is an Israeli professor and historian at Ben-Gurion University. He is obviously sympathetic to the state of Israel, but he is a good enough historian to want to tell the whole story. And what a story it is. If you’re looking for background on the Arab-Israeli conflict, this book is indispensible.
Dorsett, Lyle W. A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A. W. Tozer. Moody Publishers, 2008.
I first encountered Tozer’s writing in 1980, and it gripped me immediately. Tozer has been something of a hero to me ever since. With only an eighth-grade education, he became as widely read as all but a handful of pastors. He is noteworthy for the strongly mystical emphasis that he brought to American evangelicalism during the middle years of the twentieth century. He was also a man with peculiarities and imbalances. Dorsett does a really nice job of bringing out both the strengths and the idiosyncrasies of a true man of God. All Tozer lovers will want to read this biography.
Sayers, Dorothy. The Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.
Whenever I read Sayers, I think of her as a writer who would like to have been G. K. Chesterton, but who couldn’t quite measure up. Still, she did some decent work. Lord Peter Wimsey is her protagonist in an entire series of mystery novels and short stories. While I had read some of the individual books before, over the past year or so I took a run at the entire series. Sayers does two things particularly well. First, she shows the moral complexities that arise in the pursuit of justice. Second, she depicts well the growth in character of her protagonist as he faces those complexities.
McCune, Rolland. A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity. Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. 3 Vols.
Whatever its shortcomings, McCune’s systematic theology is the only current work of its kind that represents Baptist, cessationist, traditionally dispensationalist, fundamentalist, and presuppositionalist principles. It is worth reading for that reason alone. One could wish for more thoughtful interaction with alternative viewpoints, but his theology already takes three large volumes and doesn’t really need to be any longer. I assign it for my students to read; pastors would be well-served to work through it.
Zinsser, William. On Writing Well: 30th Anniversary Edition. Collins, 2006.
I hate the fact that so few fundamentalists write well. I want to write better. Zinsser is a good writer who can help with that. ’Nuff said.
Langewiesche, William. Fly By Wire. Picador, 2009.
Aviation isn’t what it used to be, but it still has heroes. One of them is Sully Sullenberger, who managed to land his A320 in the Hudson River without loss of life. Langewiesche tells the story, not only from the perspective of the pilot and airline, but from the perspective of the plane, the technology, and even the geese. Great fun for aviation buffs, but good reading for almost anyone.
Redding, Richard. The Light-Plus series. Amazon Digital.
Richard Redding is a Baptist Bible Fellowship missionary in Mexico. Over the years he has made an avocation of writing science fiction (incidentally, he is part of the reason that the Antichrist was Romanian in a certain series of prophetic thrillers). He recently published a series of his books electronically for Amazon Kindle. While I’m not a true science fiction aficionado, I certainly enjoyed these books, which are as much spiritual fantasies as they are science fiction.
Watson, William C. Dispensationalism Before Darby. Lampion Press, 2015.
The common impression is that dispensationalism sprang from the mind of Darby more-or-less as Athena sprang from the head of Zeus. Watson sets himself to show why that is not so, arguing that the roots of dispensationalism go deep into early Reformed theology, perhaps as early as the Reformers themselves. The book is a bit of a tough read, partly because Watson quotes primary sources at length. Critics might quibble with some points, but the book’s thesis is well (if redundantly) established by the end. I think this is an important contribution to the history of dispensationalism.
Von Mises, Ludwig. Economic Policy. Mises Institute, 2006.
Modern conservative thought rests upon a tripod of ideas. The economic side of that tripod is represented by the Austrian economists, especially Hayek and Mises. They do not frame economics as an abstract science, but seek to show that humans behave in specific ways when faced by particular circumstances. This little book is an easy read and a good introduction to a significant, conservative perspective. One of its values—as with all Austrian economics—is to show that economic concerns are not separate from civil, social, and moral concerns.
Goldberg, Jonah. Liberal Fascism. Crown Forum, 2009.
Before encountering this book, I’d only read a couple of columns by Goldberg. I almost didn’t read the book, partly because I found its title obnoxious, and partly because I had trouble taking Goldberg’s writing seriously. But I did read it, and I’m glad I did. I expected a rant. What I found was a fairly serious and respectful piece of intellectual history that stimulated me toward further study of the Progressive era, of Wilsonianism, and of the Pragmatism of James and Dewey. Goldberg argues cogently that Woodrow Wilson established the first Fascist government in the world. Curious? Give it a read.
Anderson, Chris. The God Who Satisfies. Church Works Media, 2016.
Anderson is a pastor who is best known for his hymns. Here he provides a nice little devotional meditation on the episode of the woman at the well in John 4. His motto is, “I am a Samaritan woman.” I found the book useful enough to hand to my wife. She has enjoyed it and profited from it. It is an easy read, but it is also well grounded biblically and theologically.
That’s a list of eleven—actually eight books and three series. These are not volumes that necessarily need to be at the top of your list. They are, however, books that will help to break up the drudgery. Enjoy!
This essay is by Kevin T. Bauder, Research Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. Not every one of the professors, students, or alumni of Central Seminary necessarily agrees with every opinion that it expresses.
Come In, Thou Blessed of the Lord
James Montgomery (1771–1854)
Come in, thou blessed of the Lord,
Stranger nor foe art thou;
We welcome thee with warm accord,
Our Friend, our Brother now.
The hand of fellowship, the heart
Of love, we offer thee;
Leaving the world, thou dost but part
From lies and vanity.
The cup of blessing which we bless,
The heavenly bread we break,
(Our Saviour’s blood and righteousness,)
Freely with us partake.
In weal or woe, in joy or care,
Thy portion shall be ours;
Christians their mutual burthen share,
They lend their mutual powers.
Come with us, we will do thee good,
As God to us hath done,
Stand but in Him, as those have stood,
Whose faith the victory won.
And when by turns we pass away,
As star by star grows dim,
May each, translated into day,
Be lost and found in Him.